Removing Goodwin's knighthood was an act of crude populism

The government has behaved in an arbitrary and unprincipled fashion.

Few will be saddened by the withdrawal of Fred Goodwin's knighthood, awarded, absurdly, for "services to banking". But there was much to regret in the manner of its removal. As Alistair Darling laments in today's Times (£), rather than establishing a clear set of principles for awarding and revoking honours, the government has behaved in an arbitrary fashion. There was more than a whiff of mob rule about yesterday's decision, something that should make any liberal feel queasy.

Goodwin has not been convicted of any crime nor has he been "censured, struck off etc by the relevant professional or other regulatory authority" - the standard criteria for the removal of honours. Contrary to what some now claim, the report by the Financial Services Authority into the collapse of RBS did not censure Goodwin personally. Are we sure that Fred the Shred belongs in the same class as Mugabe and Ceausescu?

And what of the honours awarded to former RBS chairman Sir Tom McKillop or former Lloyds chairman Sir Victor Blank? Or the honorary knighthood awarded to Alan Greenspan, the man more responsible than any other for the financial architecture that collapsed in 2008. Are their titles now to be removed? If so, the government should proceed on the basis of principle, not populist whim.

Conservative deputy chairman Michael Fallon's assertion on the Today programme that the Forfeiture Committee is "entirely independent of politicians" does not bear scrutiny. The removal of Goodwin's knighthood could not have come at a more convenient moment for Cameron, who broke with precedent to signal his approval of the move. Playing catch-up with Ed Miliband on "responsible capitalism", he has gleefully thrown some red meat to the mob.

Myself, I believe that Goodwin's knighthood should have stood as a monument to the folly of a political class bedazzled by high finance. Instead, the Conservative Party, funded as it is by the largesse of the City of London, has removed Goodwin's honour, whilst simultaneously ensuring that the system that produced him continues as before.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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FTSE 100 plunges after Theresa May signals hard Brexit ahead

The Prime Minister is to lay out her Brexit plan later today. 

The FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 plummeted this morning after the Prime Minister signalled Brexit will mean leaving the single market.

Theresa May is expected to rule out "partial membership" or any other kind of "half-in, half-out" deal with the EU in a speech later today.

The FTSE 100, the index of the UK's 100 biggest companies, and the FTSE 250 both fell more than 0.3 per cent immediately after opening. 

The worst performers included the housebuilder Barratt Developments, consumer goods tester Intertek and the mining company BHP.

Stock markets have been buoyant since Brexit, in part because many of Britain's biggest companies are international and benefit from a devalued pound. 

However, while markets fell, the pound crept up against the dollar, to $1.21. 

Critics of the Prime Minister say she is sacrificing the economy to prioritise immigration controls.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady warned: "If we leave the single market, working people will end up paying the price. It'd be bad for jobs, for work rights & for our living standards."

According to the Office for National Statistics, inflation rose from 1.2 per cent in November to 1.6 per cent in December. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.